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Transportation Planning - Please Help...This is Ovewhelming

To anyone who considers his or her self a transportation guru, could you help me out with determining the best mode of transportation? This is my wife and I’s first time to Europe, so the transportation is a little overwhelming. We have about three weeks and below will be our general itinerary. I’ve been wrestling with the idea of point to point for Italy and France with a Swiss Pass for Switzerland. Let me know what you think and if you would have better/different suggestions all together. Thanks for your help!!

Day 1-3: London, England – catching an easy Jet from London to Venice on day 3
Day 4: Venice, Italy
Day 5: Verona, Italy
Day 6-7: Florence, Italy
Day 8-10: Cinque Terre, Italy – on day 10, hopefully in the evening, we plan to head to Gimmelwald in Switzerland
Day 11-13: Gimmewald, Switzerland
Day 14-15: Chamonix, France
Day 16-17: Strasbourg, Frane
Day 18-20: Paris, France

Once again, thanks for any advice you can offer!

Posted by
683 posts

We have traveled extensively in Europe and have used only busses and trains. While flights CAN save time and are invaluable on tight schedules to travel long distances, their downside is that most airports are far from your destination and thus require additional time and hassle. In light of your having 3 weeks, trains are your best bet. We would use p2p tix and forgo passes, as they are usually more expensive and more restrictive. Are you flying into London and leaving from Paris? If your itinerary isnt graven in stone, why not come into Rome and thereby avoid the need to fly to Italy from England?
Lastly, you are hitting a lot of places. Have you considered, as an example, not doing Chamonix or Gimmelwald and extending time in Paris or Venice or both?

Posted by
4125 posts

I agree with my neighbors from Newburyport: this is a good rail itinerary, with the possible exception of the evening trip to Switzerland.

You might be able to figure out a decent night-train route to some third destination and take a morning train to Gimelwald. (For instance, looks like Bologna has sleepers to Berne and Zurich.)

You did not ask this, so I will only timidly advance the thought that this is a very busy itinerary for two first-time travelers, however youthful. There is a learning curve, and it is easy for a plan that is too tight to get derailed.

That said, I do think it is feasible and rail will help you to do it. Good luck!

Posted by
6898 posts

Your schedule is a bit agressive. You will be seeing quite a bit in 3 weeks. No matter how you cut it, almost all of your journeys will most likely be on trains. Some of the runs will take 7.0hrs. Some others are 2.5hrs-3.5hrs. Your evening train to Gimmelwald will be tough to do in the afternoon and evening. It's a 9.5hr. train/bus/gondola trip. Plus, the gondola stops running for the night at about midnight. Thus, the latest you can leave the CT is about 2:00pm.

A second difficulty is that you won't be able to book this ticket in Italy. Italy (Trenitalia) will book you to Interlaken Ost but no further. The Swiss want to be paid in Swiss Francs to get from Interlaken Ost to Gimmelwald. So if you arrive after the Interlaken Ost train station has closed, you may be stuck if you don't have Swiss Francs. One easy way to get Swiss Francs is when you change trains at Spiez (and you will). You have about 16 minutes between trains. Quickly run around to the other side of the train station (it's not that big) and make a withdrawl from the ATM. The ATM will dispense Swiss Francs.

My best advice is to not attempt this into the late evening. Once the gondola is down, it's down for 6.0hrs from midnight to 6:00am. Plus, you have to take a bus from the Lauterbrunnen train station to Stechelberg to pick up the gondola. That shuts down during the night as well.

Posted by
875 posts

Are days 1 and 20 travel days? If so, you are really shortchanging yourselves of time in two of the most interesting cities in the world (depending, of course, on what your interests are). My husband and I did a 3 1/2 week trip in Apr/May this year, spending 10 nights in Paris and only 2 nights each in several other places. We vowed never to stay less than 3 nights anywhere again. Too much time is taken up by travel, leaving too little time to really see what we came to see.

You might want to eliminate some places so you can really enjoy enough time in others.

Posted by
7205 posts

You can buy a ticket on a Swiss train from the ticket-checker person with a valid credit card. You don't have to have Swiss Francs...

Yes, your schedule is too aggresive. I'm particularly aghast at only 1 day in Venice. Verona is an easy daytrip from Venice, but there is so much to see in Venice (not just museums) why would you spend all of that money and effort to get to Venice to only see 1 day of the beautiful city? My suggestion (and I realize you didn't ask for it) is to eliminate Cinque Terre and perhaps even Florence. Give yourself the extra days in Venice and catch the afternoon fast EuroStar train from Venice->Milan->Interlaken->Gimmelwald. This is a very long and tiring trip. Forget the alps in Chamonix and spend the extra time in the alps in Gimmelwald (where you will already be). There's plenty to see and do in Gimmelwald and surrounding towns of Murren, Lauterbrunnen, Wengen, Thun, Brienz. Don't waste time in Strasbourg and just train directly from Gimmelwald->Interlaken Ost-> Paris. From Interlaken the trip is 5.5 hours.

By eliminating all of the little sidetrips you will make your transportation planning much easier and you will actually get to see and "experience" the towns on your new itinerary instead of watching them whiz by from a train window.

I've done trips your way on my first couple of times to particular I spent only 1 night in Venice (and that was in Mestre!!!) HUGE mistake. You don't need to visit lots of cities in order to see lots of things. London, Venice, Swiss Alps, Paris contains more sights than you could see in a month...much less 3 weeks.

Posted by
689 posts

I can see how this would be overwhelming--you've got way too much planned. Keep in mind that between traveling to the station, getting there early for a train, and the actual train travel, you will have far less time in each location than you've listed above.

All of your destinations are worthwhile but something has to be cut. Gimmelwald is wonderful but it really does take some getting to, so that is an obvious choice to cut. I agree that getting from teh Cinque Terre to Gimmelwald will take all day--I believe it took me all day from Milan once. Or, cut Chamonix--in this packed itinerary, do you need 2 Alps stops? Maybe the Alps can be your next vacation, and you can cut them both.